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Male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs instead of buds. Male plants are usually discarded because you don’t want them to pollinate the females, which will produce seeds—no one wants to smoke buds with seeds in it.
The space between nodes is called “internodal spacing” and will give you a sense of whether a plant will grow tall or short.
Cannabis really stands out in its flowers—or buds—where unique and intricate formations occur: fiery orange hairs, sugary crystals, and chunky buds enveloped by tiny leaves.
Male vs. female marijuana plants
Plants originally developed trichomes to protect against predators and the elements. These clear bulbous globes ooze aromatic oils called terpenes as well as therapeutic cannabinoids like THC and CBD. The basis of hash production depends on these trichomes and their potent sugar-like resin.
Often, growers will top, or cut off, the stem after about five nodes, which forces the plant to grow out laterally more, creating more bud sites.
Branches grow out of the main stem and support fan leaves and buds. Growers often train a cannabis plant by topping branches to create more bud sites.
Females are the prizes of cannabis plants—they are the ones that grow the buds that we all know and love. Anytime you see a picture of a cannabis plant with buds, you are looking at a female plant.
To a non-expert grower, all cannabis seeds look alike. The gender of cannabis plants becomes more readily apparent when the plant approaches the flowering period .
Author Robert Connell Clarke’s book Marijuana Botany An Advanced Study: The Propagation and Breeding of Distinctive Cannabis presents clear instructions for differentiating male and female plants. The gender of a cannabis plant is located at the nodes along the main stem.
Perlowin advises that growers who wish to prevent female cannabis plants from herming must be diligent throughout the plant’s grow cycle. For starters, purchase seeds from a reputable company or trustworthy breeder that understands cannabis genetics. While potential environmental stressors must be monitored and minimized, growers should also examine their plants every day for any unusual growth.
How can you tell a male plant from a female plant?
“When you see a pollen sac, you will know that a female plant is turning male,” says Perlowin. “Oftentimes, you can tell before the pollen sack becomes a problem. You should examine the plant from the very bottom of the plant to the top. It is easy to spot when the pollen sacs are at the top of the plant, but be sure to examine if there are pollen sacs at the bottom.” Male plants additionally grow taller than female plants as they mature and have thicker stems and fewer leaves.
A true female cannabis plant cannot be cloned from a male plant. Cloning is a process that is used by breeders to make genetic copies of robust, healthy female plants, reducing the guesswork that sometimes accompanies cannabis cultivated from seed.
Other stressors that may incite female cannabis plants to become hermaphroditic include disruptions to the photoperiod, dramatic shifts in temperature, disease or pest infestations, the use of toxic pesticides, and physical damage from vigorous pruning.
“Herming can also definitely be a genetic problem, but it is not cultivar-specific,” says Perlowin. “You can get the same cultivars from different seed companies, and they will yield different results.” Reputable breeders are more likely to competently sort and select seeds from genetically robust plants with desirable traits.